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No national security risk detected in preliminary assessment of Airiston Helmi case, sources say

Yle sources say initial investigation of the firm's money laundering has not uncovered a security risk, although terabytes of data must still be examined.

Airiston Helmen omistuksessa oleva rantakiinteistö Prostvik Resort Paraisten Nauvossa 26. syyskuuta.
Airiston Helmi's Prostvik Resort in Pargas. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Sources of the Finnish public broadcaster Yle say that Finland's top decision-makers have been informed that a preliminary evaluation of the Airiston Helmi real estate company in southwest Finland has revealed a link to organized crime, but not national security.

MP Ilkka Kanerva, head of the parliamentary defence committee, confirmed that this was indeed the initial finding. He said that the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) and the Finnish Defence Forces visited the Parliament's Defence and Foreign Affairs Committees this week to brief its members on the Airiston Helmi investigation.

"Yes, it's true. The case is first and foremost being approached as a financial crime. They [the representatives of Supo and the Defence Forces] were very disciplined about not speculating that there could be something more to it. They would not take a security policy-oriented stand on the matter," Kanerva said.

An anonymous source that is familiar with the criminal investigation of the case told Yle that this preliminary finding might still be refuted, however, as the investigation is still in early days.

"The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) seized three million euros in cash and a large amount of data. Some of the information is in a foreign language, so it is impossible to know what could still be revealed," the source said.

Terabytes of data to comb through

The NBI reported that they retrieved between 100 and 200 terabytes of data in their raid of Airiston Helmi's business properties last weekend. This is equivalent to the content of between 50,000 and 100,000 USB flash drives. In addition to the three million euros, the raid also seized large amounts of cash in other currencies, but the police aren't saying which countries the money represents.

This first source is also of the opinion that the case is being investigated as an international money laundering scheme.

A second anonymous source told Yle that no threat to national security has been detected so far in the analysis of the massive data catch. The list of crimes may change as the investigation progresses, however, the second nameless source said.

The information received from both of the anonymous sources comes from authorities involved with the investigation.

Main suspect still at large

The Finnish police carried out a large-scale search operation in the Turku archipelago last weekend. The NBI, the special branch of the police charged with investigating organized crime, said the raid targeted a potential money laundering operation.

The Southwest Finland District Court took two suspects into custody on Tuesday in connection with the raid. One held Russian citizenship and the other held Estonian citizenship. Both are accused of aggravated money laundering in the case. The Russian man is also suspected of aggravated tax fraud, while the Estonian man is suspected of aiding and abetting aggravated tax fraud.

The police say they have pinpointed other suspects in the case, but have not been able to find them. For example, the Russian-born man they believe was the main perpetrator of the financial crimes is still at large.

Renewed discussion of foreign land ownership

The events of last weekend revived the public debate in Finland on foreign land ownership in areas deemed to have strategic importance. News on Thursday that Supo had joined in the investigation added fuel to this fire, as Supo's core functions are counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and security work.

According to the National Land Survey of Finland, Airiston Helmi either bought or sold 9.2 million euros of real estate in the Turku archipelago between 2007 and 2014. The properties were located on the majority Swedish-speaking islands of Nagu, Korpo, Pargas, and Houtskär (known as Nauvo, Korppoo, Parainen and Houtskari in Finnish).

The archipelago properties owned by Airiston Helmi are in strategically important areas, as the maritime routes through the islands off Turku serve major ports and contain important data cables.

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